- Explore Henry VIII's magnificent pleasure palace
- Solve the most famous garden maze in the world
- Check out the recently uncovered Royal Chocolate Kitchens
- Follow one of the free tours with a costumed historian
Literally 'fit for a king', it's no surprise that this enormous and lavish complex was the favorite residence of the decadent Henry VIII. With costumed guides, sprawling grounds, and elegant apartments to ogle, it'll quite likely be a favorite of your family as well.
Hampton Court Palace hasn't been inhabited by the British Royal Family since the 18th Century, but when it was, it was a hotbed of activity. This sprawling red-brick royal palace on the banks of the Thames was the center of royal life. Nowadays, it's a remarkable opportunity to touch the lives of royals and aristocrats who frequented it.
Be forewarned: it has over 60 acres of gardens, six acres of Tudor and Baroque buildings, and 750 acres of parkland, so it's easy to get overwhelmed. If you need some places to get started, make sure you see the gigantic kitchens (to feed Henry VIII's notoriously large appetites), the double-hammer-beamed Great Hall where Shakespeare's company – the ‘King’s Men’ – performed for King James I, and the Cumberland Art Gallery, with works from Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and more.
Also worth your time on any visit are the Royal Apartments. There are six thematic walking tours you can take to wind your way through. Information for the self-guided tours is sparse, so pick up an audio guide, or else hop one of the free walking tours with a period-costumed historian.
If the weather's nice allow some time to roam the grounds: there are 60 acres of garden and 750 acres of parkland. The garden maze, commissioned by William III in 1700, is a welcome and challenging diversion.
Catherine Howard (Henry VIII's fifth wife) was arrested and kept locked up here in the Haunted Gallery - a treatment she rather loudly protested. She was eventually executed at the Tower of London for adultery. As unsatisfied with that outcome as she was with the rest of her treatment, her ghost chose to return to Hampton Court and carry on shrieking.
Who loses a chocolate kitchen?! Well, it seems that the British do. Or did. The Chocolate Kitchens here at Hampton Court were lost for hundreds of years, but recently rediscovered. they re-opened in February 2014. Built for William and Mary around 1689, it's the only royal chocolate kitchen in Britain. You can even pick up a Georgian chocolate recipe and watch a chocolate cook-a-long.
Hampton Court Rd.
Palace and Maze
- 25 Mar - 29 Oct 2016: 10:00 - 18:00 (last admission: 17:00, last entry: 17:15)
- Apr - Sep: 10:00 - 18:00
- All other times: 10:00 - 17:30
Informal Gardens (Tiltyard, Wilderness and West Front)
- Apr - Sep: 07:00 - 20:00
- All other times: 07:00 - 18:00
Home Park (including both Jubilee Gates)
- May - Jul: 07:00 - 21:00
- Apr, Aug & Sep: 07:00 - 21:00
- Mar - Oct: 07:00 - 18:45
- All other times: 07:00 - 17:30
- London Waterloo Station: Trains run every half hour, exit at Hampton Court (35 minutes ride)
- From Kingston: 111, 216, 411, and 513.
From Richmond: R68
Accepted payment: Oyster cards, LT cards, bus passes, Travelcards, Freedom Passes, and Saver Tickets.